BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 11TH APRIL, 2015
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0(0) ASTON VILLA 1(1)
Referee:- Lee Probert
Assistants:- R. Ganfield & E. Smart
Fourth official:- D. Sheldrake
Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Vorm; Chiriches (sub Yedlin, 79), Fazio, Dier, Rose; Mason, Bentaleb; Townsend (sub Lamela, 79), Chadli (sub Soldado, 62), Eriksen; Kane ( Capt.) ( Yedlin wore number 12)
Subs not used:- Friedel; Davies; Paulinho, Stambouli
Booked:- Bentaleb (foul on Agbonlahor), Rose (foul on Delph), Lamela (foul on Benteke)
Aston Villa (4-1-3-2):- Guzan; Bacuna, Clark (sub Baker, 18), Vlaar, Richardson; Sanchez; Cleverley, Grealish (sub Weimann, 63), Delph (Capt.); Agbonlahor (sub Cole, 70), Benteke
Subs not used:- Given; Okore, Lowton; N'Zogbia
Booked:- Sanchez (foul on Mason), Benteke (not moving for free kick), Richardson (foul on Kane)
Sent off:- Sanchez (90+3 - second bookable offence - foul on Rose)
This was no Sherwood robbing
Our nightmares came to fruition, as former acting head coach Tim Sherwood made his first return to White Hart Lane since his departure at the end of last season, and led his team to their first win over Spurs for thirteen games. This was a vital win for Villa, who lifted themselves a clear six points above the bottom three, giving their fans every reason to celebrate and believe in Premier League survival.
As for Spurs, this was another lack-lustre performance against a team wearing claret and blue, and five points lost in two games, which surely means an end to any dream of Champions League football next season. It's a good job we are seven points ahead of Swansea, because no matter how badly we play, it seems we are destined to limp into next season's Europa League, provided Liverpool or Arsenal win the FA Cup. Mind you, Sherwood might just scuttle any such plans and beat Liverpool, then Arsenal in the FA Cup Final, thus keeping us out of Europe.
We've had our moments this season, but some of those away wins were achieved in circumstances where results could have gone against us. In my opinion, Mauricio Pochettino is too predictable in his playing style, as he persists in that 4-2-3-1. Louis van Gaal was perhaps the first to rumble us in that 3-0 defeat at Old Trafford, which really heralded the downturn in Spurs' results and fortunes.
We all knew that Sherwood would play attacking football, and so he did, with both Benteke and Agbonlahor in advanced positions. Why, Sherwood even kept Benteke up front at some Spurs corners, prepared for a quick counter-attack. Yet, when Spurs ventured into Villa territory they were so quickly closed down by players who seemed to have more running in their feet, and, of course, more desire in their minds.
For example, Harry Kane, who was captain again, was usually closed down by two or even three opponents when in possession. No wonder he was often stifled, although he did still offer some threat to the opposition.
Pochettino's team selection was somewhat hampered by the enforced absence of three of his first choice defenders - Lloris, Walker and Vertonghen- but I was mystified by the decision to play Chadli in a central position, rather than Eriksen. That said, I thought Chadli offered some skill on a number of occasions, not least just before he was substituted, after deceiving a defender and chasing the ball down the left flank, before putting in a decent cross.
Vertonghen has "an illness" for the second week, and I begin to fear behind the scenes agendas to which we are not privy. Dembele didn't even make the bench today, and surely had something to offer the team.
In truth, I feel that Pochettino is too predictable, and that his team needs a shake-up. I am losing faith in the head coach to take us forward. I fear a transfer window of moderate activity, and already another season of moderate achievement.
As for the game, apart from one first half save from Danny Rose, I don't think Brad Guzan was sorely tested. Harry Kane had a good second half effort skim the top of the Villa net, but in the first half, it was the visitors who looked more likely to score, and indeed fulfilled that potential with Benteke's winner.
There were uncertain touches in the Spurs defence in the opening stages from Chiriches, Fazio and goalkeeper Michel Vorm, who failed to convincingly punch clear a high ball into the box. Andros Townsend did feature prominently in a couple of early moves feeding Eriksen and Chadli. Chadli was called offside whilst Eriksen was way off target, which became a sad tendency today.
Villa had to make an early chance of Clark for Baker, after the central defender was injured.
There was concern at the back for Spurs when Benteke made a powerful run from left to centre, feeding the ball to Bacuna, who was closed down well by Danny Rose, clearly the best Spurs player on show today. The result was a goal kick to Spurs.
Bentaleb was also showing positively in the early stages, and after 20 minutes, successfully carried the ball forward down the right channel, feeding Chiriches who was ahead of Townsend, Chiriches passed back to Townsend, who passed inside for Eriksen, who was badly off target.
A Spurs corner won by Chadli was taken from the left by Townsend and headed over by Fazio. Harry Kane's determination in the middle preceded a ball to Eriksen, who passed to Danny Rose, cutting inside before hitting a good low shot which was saved by Guzan, before Eriksen's follow-up was blocked. Kane then received the ball near the half-way line with his back to goal, turned and passed to Chadli down the left channel. Chadli won a corner, but nothing came of that.
Villa took the lead in the 35th minute, when Bacuna crossed from the right and Benteke rose to meet the ball with a perfect header which went in off Vorm's right post. There was a good contingent of Villa fans to celebrate, and they made far more noise than the subdued home crowd for the rest of the afternoon.
Harry Kane fed a good ball to Eriksen, but he was successfully closed down, and mis-cued his attempt on goal. Danny Rose had his attempt on goal saved, following good attacking play by Chadli. After Guzan's save, Bentaleb led the attempt to follow-up, but again Eriksen had an attempt go well wide.
Guzan parried a right footer by Harry Kane, before Eriksen skied another attempt after more good work by Chadli. In added time Agbonlahor had Chiriches beaten, but saw his shot rebound off Vorm's left-hand post.
Vlaar had a great chance early in the second half from corner, but fired over. The Villa defence was then confused by a low cross by Danny Rose, making the effort to get ahead of his team-mates
Benteke was put through at the other end, but Vorm came out to nick the ball. Harry Kane made a desperate diving effort to meet a Townsend cross, but failed to reach it. Eriksen then had a short cross intercepted in the penalty area when the home crowd appealed for handball. Eriksen retained the ball and passed inside to Danny Rose, whose shot was deflected for a corner, from which Chadli headed wide.
Harry Kane had a great attempt on goal from the right with left foot curler which skimmed the top of Guzan's net. Townsend had been involved in the build-up to this attempt following a Spurs throw.
Guzan and his team-mates had for a long time been successfully slowing down the game, and using as much time as possible over goal-kicks and substitutions. Agbonlahor in particular took an age to leave the field, when replaced by Joe Cole.
Spurs replaced Chadli with Soldado; Townsend with Lamela, and Chiriches with DeAndre Yedlin, making his first team debut. Chiriches was cheered off (not for the right reasons) and Yedlin cheered on, but none of the subs were able to improve our prospects.
In fact, the best chance fell to Villa captain Fabian Delph, who had been put in by Benteke, but missed out as a result of Vorm's bravery and save at his feet.
During added time, Villa's Carlos Sanchez was sent off for a second bookable offence, but it came too late to affect Spurs' chances of a come-back. Many Spurs fans had given up the ghost by this time, and too many of the team had given up earlier.
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